Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Looking Back Gives Us Hope for the Year Ahead
January 02, 2021
By Steve Grinley
As I was reflecting back on this birding year of social distancing and no travel, I thought about the year ahead and the hope of the vaccine helping to bring our experiences back to, at least, a new “normal”. We spent the past year birding close to home and as rewarding as that was, we drooled over reports of all the rare birds being seen in Arizona, Texas and Florida. I went back and looked at some of my reports of years past and came across a look at 2006 where when we travelled some of these places and added a lot of new birds to our life lists. I thought of sharing excerpts of that reports to also give you some hope of a better time ahead:
“For me, measuring in birds and birding experiences shared with friends, 2006 was a remarkable year. The year was nothing less than spectacular – both in terms of birds and in personal birding milestones.
“I took three major out-of-state trips that provided plenty of highlights. An organized trip in February to the Texas coast and lower Rio Grande Valley, led by friend and fellow birder Bill Drummond, produced great birds. My memory of freezing from not packing enough warm clothes for 40 degree weather is still vivid, but overshadowed by the 20 or so life birds I saw.
“The boat trip out of Arkansas to see the endangered whooping crane was especially great, and sweetened further by the sight of a lone greater flamingo. Other memorable Texas sightings included the ferruginous pygmy owl, gray-crowned yellowthroat, ringed kingfisher, brown jay, clay-colored robin, Aplomado falcon, white-tailed and gray hawks, green parakeet, red-crowned parrot and a hook-billed kite.
“A Memorial Day weekend trip to North Carolina produced my first look at a red-cockaded woodpecker and Bachman’s sparrow, and great looks at Henslow’s sparrow, worm-eating and Swainson’s warbler. Walking through a swamp at night, in a vain search of black rail, was a definite low-light, but two pelagic trips with sightings of Herald and black-capped petrel and band-rumped storm petrel topped off the weekend.
“An Arizona trip in September, which included harrowing ordeals along cliff roads and washed-out canyons, featured plenty of awesome birds. Several sightings of elegant trogons were especially nice, but so were the rufous-capped, Lucy’s, Virginia, hermit and MacGillivray’s warblers, common black hawk, Aztec thrush, varied bunting, zone-tailed hawk and the Lewis’ woodpecker. The latter was one of my two major milestones that I achieved in 2006 – my 600th bird in the ABA North America area. It was also especially memorable to see California condors flying in the Grand Canyon, 40 years after seeing one of the last in the wild in California before their capture and release program.”
“Also in 2006, there we many local trips that we took to see special birds in New England including a trip to Connecticut in July that was successful in our locating a reported red-necked stint, another life bird for me.
“A late July camping trip to Mt. Greylock in northwestern Massachusetts was highlighted by a singing Bicknell’s thrush, thought to be absent from there for more than 20 years. It brought back fond memories of yearly trips to Mount Greylock in the ’60s and ’70s.
‘The western reef heron in Maine and New Hampshire in mid-August drew birders from across the country, and it took us a couple of trips there to find the bird. Only a fourth record for the continent, this bird was certainly a special life bird for me.
‘In October, the adventure of wading through two feet of tide in the marsh at Plum Bush to see a life yellow rail was especially memorable. In early November, finally seeing the green-tailed towhee on Plum Island, after missing it on previous searches, was also rewarding. In late November, we watched a rufous hummingbird visit a feeder in Cotuit, on Cape Cod and we made it back to Boston that day, in time to see a western grebe at dusk in Winthrop. I returned a week later to the Cape, in early December, to find the Bell’s vireo by myself in Falmouth, after missing it during previous searches with fellow birders.”
Next week, I will reflect on this past year of mostly local birding, now with a mind’s eye toward the possibilities for the year and years to come.